This post is part of a series on my travels to the “Low Countries”: the Netherlands and Belgium. Start at the beginning.
I woke up with a sore head. The apartment we were staying in was beautiful, but one oddity was the bathroom had no door. It simply had an enormous, thick glass pane 2/3 of the way across the threshold separating it from the bedroom. The night before, there was a brief scare when Matt thought I had left the contact solution in Amsterdam. When he accused me of this, I came running to the bathroom. I forgot about the glass… Moments later, I was flat on the floor, the glass reverberating from colliding with my forehead. My head swelled up and I nursed it all evening with a near freezing beer left in the refrigerator. The next morning the spot wasn’t gone, but luckily the swelling had subsided.
Our second day in Utrecht was abbreviated – we were eventually moving on, but our host was nice enough to let us check out a little late to see a few more sights before getting on our way. This morning I had to figure another new coffee machine; this time a Philips Senseo. Once again I botched the first cup. Once again Youtube helped me remedy the second.
First, we headed out in search of the Rietveld-Schroder house. Matt is a huge fan of design and architecture and in Holland, Gerrit Rietveld is synonymous with these things. He was a prolific furniture designer and also designed a house – considered his masterpiece – in Utrecht, where he lived, for his good friend Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder.
The tour through the house was guided by a handheld audio device and a guide who would occasionally open and close doors, windows, etc. to show us how the house was constructed. The house is a UNESCO World Heritage site and thus they take many precautions to keep it in good condition. We all had to put slippers over our shoes upon entering. It was an awesome sight to see, especially considering it was built in 1924 – a design well ahead of its time.
The house, when initially constructed, was on the edge of Utrecht and had a view from its many large windows that was just as important to Rietveld as the interior. Sadly, where that great view once was, a highway now sits. Paved paradise and all.
Inside the house’s welcome center, they also had miniatures of much of the furniture designed by during his life including his very famous Red and Blue Chair.
Our ticket to the house was a double feature and included admission to the Centraal Museum in Utrecht as well. So after the house, we made our way there. It was a small museum, mostly dedicated to art and artifacts from the city of Utrecht. There were some really cool things including an 1000 year old ship and a bunch of furniture designed by Rietveld.
After a quick stroll through the Centraal museum, it was time to get a bite to eat before jumping on the train. We stopped at what some claim to be the best place for fries in the Netherlands: Frietwinkel. As is the custom, we got a big fry cone with mayo – the traditional Dutch condiment. They totally lived up to the hype. I’m a fry guy and these changed the way I think about fries.
We grabbed our bags and hopped on the Intercity train once again.
Thirty minutes later, we emerged at our destination: the Netherland’s second largest city, Rotterdam.
First impressions: when compared to the very old cities we’d seen in the previous days, Rotterdam is a distinctly modern city. Large skyscrapers with modern architecture, wide open streets, and flat sidewalks immediately distinguished this city from its Dutch relatives.
We walked directly to meet our host at our new apartment; we were running a little late and didn’t want to keep her waiting. When we arrived she was there waiting and guided us into our new abode. It was an awesome, modern apartment that had amazing decor as well as a breathtaking view of the Rotterdam skyline.
The change from our previous canal home was pretty abrupt.
We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city and trying to get a feel for the place. Rotterdam is primarily a place of commerce. Many people work in the city and most of the skyline is dominated by businesses, including the Deloitte building, Maastoren, which is actually the tallest in the country.
It is also a port city with a strong maritime tradition. One of the most recognizable features of the skyline is the giant Erasmus Bridge named after Rotterdam’s Desiderius Erasmus, a public religious intellectual. We walked over the bridge and also went into the De Rotterdam, the largest building in the Netherlands.
Our last stop for the evening was the Markthal (Market Hall), a huge building that houses market shops, restaurants, offices and apartments. It’s like nothing I’d ever seen.
For dinner, we ate in the Markthal at a restaurant that we had seen in Utrecht, but hadn’t gotten a chance to go. As luck would have it, Firma Pickles had one other location right here in Rotterdam. The meal was pretty good, but we were tired and the waiter was serving too many tables at once. This was probably the first less than stellar dining experience we’d had so far, so we brushed it off and walked back to the apartment.
Too tired to make it out again, we enjoyed the view with a bottle of wine and collapsed.